By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern
Imagine this: the sweet taste of strawberries, the zesty smell of citrus in the air, and that great feeling of getting something checked off your to-do list. This experience perfectly describes what getting fresh produce from a local farm is like.
Shopping for produce through local farms is another option for purchasing fruits and vegetables. Shopping locally often directs you to unique varieties of produce and supports the local farming community. Often, farmers put these products into CSA boxes, which are crates filled to the brim with seasonal fruits and vegetables that have just been picked from the field. Other options to get these fresh foods include harvesting the fruit and vegetables yourself through U-PICK gardens, buying produce and baked goods from the country stores on the farm, or purchasing them at their stands at local farmers markets.
Originally, farms were established to feed the farmer’s family; any excess produce was sold. Business came from locals living by these farms, their word of mouth to their friends and family, selling their produce to local grocery stores, and live events like farmers markets in the cities. But with the development of social media in the early 2000’s, free advertising became available instantly to every small, medium, and large farm that had access to the internet. With this new tool, businesses like local farms started booming.
Arizona’s direct market farms, like Agritopia or Mortimer Farms, offer these high-quality vegetables and fruits for affordable prices. Shopping at local farms caught on as a trend decades ago starting with the idea of farmer’s markets, becoming widely popular and successful.
Agritopia, a farm and housing community built in 2000, started their social media pages in 2011. When asked how social media has affected their sales, social media manager Sarah Roberson said, “ [it] is our main method for marketing… we increase sales because of our social media posting.”
Agritopia is a shining example of how farm fresh food is not just a trend, but an essential for families who like to visit their local market farms. “We love that our CSA shares offer variety and showcases how amazing eating seasonally is here in our state. Our farm store offers great provisions to pick up and create a full meal with local ingredients or amazing local gifts and treasures to bring home,” Roberson said.
Because of its unique setting in a housing development, Agritopia Farms has intrigued many people. “I would say that [social media] is a huge method of attracting visitors,” Roberson stated. Agritopia has Instagram and Facebook accounts for their community, farm, and country store. Agritopia Farm’s Instagram account alone has 24.9 thousand followers.
“We really enjoy [making] our educational posts, [and] providing an outlet to get out our story of the farm and our staff is also really fun,” Roberson said.
Similarly, Mortimer Farms started their social media pages in 2010; their business has seen a good amount of success come from using Facebook and Instagram.
Mortimer Farms offers a U-PICK garden and is known for its delicious strawberries and corn. They own 60 acres of farmland that can be toured by people interested in spending the day with their family or friends picking produce, breathing in the fresh air, and walking around the farm.
“The world we live in is all about instant gratification, knowing all the details about an experience before actually visiting, and creating “real” connections. We utilize all of these… to gain the results we want in our campaigns and posts. Making real connections and taking our followers behind the scenes converts to in-person visits – and, better yet, sales,” Ashlee Mortimer, Chief Marketing Officer for Mortimer Farms, said.
The Mortimers noted an increase in people visiting the farm because of its promotion on social media. When social media users in Arizona and neighboring states scroll through their feeds at night and see Mortimer Farms posts, it gives people the idea of a place to visit and something to do with their loved ones; especially during this time of social distancing, where farms have plenty of room for people to spread out.
“Each time someone likes or follows our page, we are essentially invited into their lives, we are now the topic of dinner conversations, and living room entertainment. It is an intimate relationship that gives businesses a unique opportunity. A relationship that gives us front door access to share our story, the story of food, and the story of American agriculture,” Ashlee Mortimer said.